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How to grow during a pandemic

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It took financial advisor Laila Pence about 15 years to grow her practice from $200,000 to $250 million in client assets. Then she felt stuck, she says.

“I had to work very hard,” Pence said in a Financial Planning webinar about practice growth . “I realized that, no matter what I did, I could not grow anymore.”

Financial advisors only have so many hours in a day, and there are limits to how many client relationships they can develop. The coronavirus pandemic presents an added roadblock, with clients demanding more attention in a time of economic apprehension and a public health crisis.

But the last few months have also provided an opportunity for advisors to experiment with new growth strategies, some of which are worth implementing for the long-run, according to three panelists who spoke on the webinar.

“You can really never engage too much. This is the time to build and solidify relationships for a lifetime,” says Cameo Roberson, an advisor coach and operations consultant who is the owner of San Francisco-based Atlas Park Consulting & Finance. Roberson recommends advisors keep reaching out to clients — whether it be for emotional or financial support.

Pence, who has now grown Newport Beach, California-based Pence Wealth Management, to $1.7 billion, has been sending edible arrangements to clients as a way to say the practice is “thinking of you,” she says. Before, the LPL Financial-affiliated advisor’s practice typically only sent them after getting a client referral. For a cost of about $50 or $75, the fruit baskets“have made a huge difference,” she says.

It’s important to have an entrepreneurial mindset, according to John Hyland, co-founder of LPL’s largest hybrid RIA, Morristown, New Jersey-based Private Asset Group, which reported $21.2 billion in assets under management on its latest SEC Form ADV.

“The concept of working on your business — not in it — is really powerful,” Hyland says. Advisors need to be able to identify opportunity, but they also need to have the courage to act, he says.

Hyland recommended advisors take a step back and evaluate what the firm’s highest priorities are, but also the resources they will demand.

“Advertising, yes, has a huge impact, but it takes up a lot of resources to actually get that done,” Hyland says. “That's something we as a firm have always stayed away from.”

It’s been an ideal time to try new communication methods for Pence, who says she’s started adding her clients as friends on Facebook and launched a podcast for her clients amid the pandemic. Every two weeks, she records a thirty-minute session live via Zoom. Afterwards, she sends a recording to clients and posts it on the practice’s website.

“These videos are really a much more in-depth analysis of the markets, what's happening with COVID, what's happening with the PPP program or the stimulus package,” she says, noting that she’s received enthusiastic feedback and from clients.

Advisors should also use this time to learn how to manage their teams more effectively, according to Roberson. Improving CRM functionality is a good place to start.

“I'm sure you have discovered operational inefficiencies that have come up post-COVID,” Roberson says. Planners need to ensure their CRM is built out so that workflows are clear to each team member, they know what they need to work on and are able to track their progress.

In addition, advisors should be having regular meetings to lift morale, according to Roberson. “There’s a lot going on in our industry and society right now, and you want to make sure you’re checking in with your people,” she says.

Execution often turns into the biggest challenge for advisors, in terms of the daily steps required to reach goals, Hyland says.

“Be relentless, and it will eventually work out,” he says.

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